SWAT Team Leader Course - Attributes and Strategies for Command in the Tactical Environment

This tactical leadership course is designed for both veteran and entry level SWAT supervisors. Additionally, officers supervising any unit responsible for serving search/arrest warrants - Narcotics, Vice, and Career Criminal units - will benefit from the course curriculum.

In the simplest terms, law enforcement tactical operations center on controlling operational time and crisis-site space. The maxim "the best is the enemy of the good" highlights the importance of controlling operational time by recognizing that creating the "best" plan uses a costly amount of time. Conversely, a "good" plan can be created and disseminated quickly. This course provides students with the tools to develop effective operational plans, as well as the process for building a team capable of aggressively carrying out such plans.

First, a clear understanding of leadership strategies, attributes, and competencies establishes the course foundation - in short, what a leader should "be and know". Then, it is upon this foundation that all other leadership skills are built; from personnel selection and training concepts to liability mitigation and capturing lessons learned through debriefs. At this point, after understanding the conditions for success, we explore the planning steps for anticipated and unanticipated tactical operations. This involves reconnaissance and intelligence collection, anticipating suspect courses of action, assessing operational risks, developing and implementing tactical plans, and modifying plans in real-time as a crisis scenario evolves.

The course utilizes multiple learning concepts in the classroom setting - multi-media supported lecture, group exercises, class discussions, debriefs and case study critiques. Outside of the classroom environment, students validate the material covered by participating in two practical exercises. These planning exercises include site reconnaissance, intelligence collection, operational planning, and operational briefing.


Class Host will provide:

  • Classroom with projector or large screen TV for PowerPoint presentations for 5 Days.
  • Five - Post-it Super Sticky Tabletop Easel Pad, 20 x 23 Inches (or similar) and Markers
  • Internet access for students.
  • Addresses of 5 to 7 (one for every 2 to 3 students) residential or small business structures (vacant), ideally within 15-minute drive of classroom.
    • Locations are "paper" targets for practical exercise, no physical contact with location will take place, they will be subject of reconnaissance and gathering of open source data.

Equipment requirements for each student include:

  • A Laptop with PowerPoint software.
  • A USB flash drive.
  • Ability to take photographs and transfer onto computer
    • e.g. cell phone photo emailed or transferred through a charging cord.
  • Each agency represented must bring a copy of agency's core values (mission statement or applicable document).

Contact GTI, by calling 803-259-1935 or emailing info@gtitraining.org, and we can provide written proposal to attend training. An option to assist with funding to attend this course is the Asset Trading Program (ATP). Click the link in the menu above to find out more about this program.

Download the SWAT Team Leader Student Registration Form


Module 1: Disclaimer - The sourcing and vetting of the tactics, techniques and procedures outlined in the course modules are identified. Additionally, the precedence of applicable laws and department policies relative to the course material presented is defined.

Module 2: Group Exercise "Leadershipwreck" - Students will participate in a small group exercise by applying their agency's core values against the actions of two leaders during separate crisis events. One leader performed extremely well while the other was a catastrophic failure. This exercise will set the tone for the course.

Module 3: Command and Control - Tactical and Administrative Duties - Students will develop an increased understanding of the authority and influence exerted by SWAT supervision in the tactical and administrative environments. Students will be able to apply the span of control concepts and the associated level of responsibility to the tactical team chain of command - team commander, team leader, and cell leaders.

Module 4: Common Leadership Styles - Students will have an understanding of the 8 common leadership styles, focusing on when each is appropriate and its impact on others. Real world applications of each style will be examined. Since these leadership styles are scalable, students will be able to adapt and blend them in to the small team command environment.

Module 5: Leadership Strategies, Attributes and Competencies - Through the examination of leadership attributes the student will appreciate what a leader should "be and know." Similarly, by exploring leadership competencies the student will understand what a leader is required to do. Student will be able to employ these strategies to influence subordinates, set the stage for future success, and seek improvement.

Module 6: Leadership Principles - Students will develop an understanding of the 11 traditional leadership principles. The application of these principles serves to develop leaders of character - the first 5 principles focus on who the leader is, then it is the remaining 6 principles which provide the strategies for leading others. Students will be able to adapt these principles to leadership in the SWAT team dynamic.

Module 7: SWAT Training Concepts - Students will be exposed to tactical training techniques which emphasis the development of meaningful, realistic and safe plans of instruction which limit training down time. Legally defendable plans of instruction, instructor vetting, and training documentation are discussed as well. Students will understand how to develop an annual training cycle driven by an accredited set of standards and taught by qualified instructors.

Module 8: Principled Leadership - "You break it, you own it" - Students will examine organizational failings in professional ethics which have the potential to erode public trust and confidence. Students explore techniques for resolving ethical dilemmas in leadership decision-making. Students will also develop a greater appreciation for the societal perception of police militarization and the concerns surrounding SWAT deployments. Students will recognize the consequences of the police militarization thesis and will be able moderate SWAT deployments which could contribute to this perception. Modules 5, 9 and 10 will tie into this module.

Module 9: SWAT Liability - Students will receive a holistic view of SWAT liability, not just in the planning and execution of tactical operations but also in relation to policies, procedures, personnel selection, and training programs. Students will be able to anticipate potential liabilities and mitigate possible negative outcomes.

Module 10: Threat Assessments - Students will understand the necessity of completing a threat assessment prior to each SWAT activation. Students will, utilizing standardized matrices, be able to make informed decisions on the deployment of tactical teams based on an analysis of the known facts of a given situation.

Module 11: Selection Process for SWAT Leaders and Operators - Students will gain an increased understanding of selection techniques which go beyond marksmanship and physical fitness scores. Students will explore multi-dimensional selection methodologies which assess a candidate's suitability to serve in the tactical unit environment as an operator or supervisor.

Module 12: Operational Reconnaissance and Intelligence Collection - Students will have an understanding of the intelligence collection and reconnaissance process and its place in tactical planning. The purpose, requirements, and sources of intelligence collection will be discussed, as well as reconnaissance team composition and scouting methods. Students will be able to organize the intelligence collection activities and incorporate the relevant processed data in mission planning. Modules 13, 16-19, and 21 will tie into this module.

Module 13: Close Threat Reconnaissance - Students will have an understanding of the collection of intelligence within sight and sound of a crisis site. The purpose and techniques of close threat reconnaissance, as well as the limitations and risks, will be discussed. Students will be able to balance the need for crisis site information against the risks associated with CTR. Modules 12, and 16-21 will tie into this module.

Module 14: Critical Decision Making in the Tactical Environment - Students will have an increased understanding of the tactical options available during a rapidly evolving tactical situation. Students will learn to anticipate suspect courses of action, assess operational risks, develop and implement tactical plans, and then modify plans as needed during a crisis scenario. Common command failings in the critical decision-making process will also be discussed. Module 5, 12, 13, and 16-21 will tie into this module.

Module 15: Debriefing Tactical Operations - Students will understand the importance of honestly assessing the team's performance with the goal of benefiting from operational experience. Students will be able to critique all aspects of operational planning and execution as well as the effectiveness of the tactics, techniques and procedures employed.

Module 16: Planning Process for Anticipated Tactical Operations - Students will understand the necessary steps for planning anticipated operations - from identifying the commander's intent and the mission end state through the delegation of planning responsibilities, the collection of intelligence, and the allocation of resources, all of which culminates in a primary tactical plan that is backed up by contingency planning.

Module 17: Planning Process for Unanticipated Tactical Operations - Students will understand the necessary steps for operational planning during unanticipated exigent situations. Students will be able to identify realistic tactical options then develop primary, alternate, contingent and emergency plans. Emphasis is placed on techniques to avoid errors of omission during the planning process.

Module 18: Briefing Tactical Operations - Students will learn briefing techniques for presenting operational plans to all team assets - this consists of the commander's intent, the center of gravity, and the primary, alternate, contingent, and emergency plans for both anticipated and unanticipated operations. Emphasis is not only placed on the overall plan, but also on operator understanding of individual tasks and responsibilities. This is accomplished through the use of various media - video, photographs, diagrams, maps and rehearsal. The information provided in modules 12, 13, 14, 16 and 17 will be utilized in this module.

Module 19: Practical Exercise - Anticipated Operational Plan - Students will use the procedures and techniques learned in modules 11-16, and 18 to develop and brief a deliberate tactical plan.

Module 20: Case Study - Anticipated Tactical Operation - Students will review a real-world preplanned SWAT operation using video and audio records supplemented with instructor provided information. The students will critique the operation with respect to how the planning process could have been modified to improve operational execution and outcome.

Module 21: Practical Exercise - Unanticipated Operational Plan - Students will use the procedures and techniques learned in modules 11-18 to develop and brief an unanticipated or hasty tactical plan.

Module 22: Case Study - Unanticipated Tactical Operation - This case study will be interactive and will also serve as a culmination exercise for the course. Students will review a complex real-world SWAT operation using video and audio records supplemented with instructor provided information. Students will engage in operational planning and leadership decision-making as the operation unfolds. At key junctures, students will debrief and critique the operation with respect to how the exigent planning process can enhance operational execution and provide contingencies for suspect actions.

This course is designed for presentation over 5 days. Start and ending time for instruction on each day of training may be adjusted to accommodate local requirements at the training location and scenario completion. Course delivery time includes 40 Hours of classroom instruction, practical exercises and debriefs, with 5 Hours allotted to breaks and lunches for a total of 45 Hours over the 5 day period.